Nick Swisher is already in tow, and CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett just need to scribble their names on a piece of paper to make their signings official. Mike Cameron will be arriving in New York shortly, as the Melky Cabrera trade is nearing completion, and is just down to the details.
So, who else is on their way?
Rumor has it the Yankees have a made a big offer to Derek Lowe, and their names have been linked for a while. They've also been interested in re-signing Andy Pettitte, and have been rumored to be chasing Ben Sheets. This strategy is rather curious: why are they chasing so many pitchers?
The question is only bolstered by the fact that during last year's underachieving season, it was the offense that sputtered more than the pitching. Plus, don't the Yankees have a kid named Phil Hughes who they've been so loath to set free? Is pitching really their primary concern?
Well, maybe. As the old adage goes, pitching and defense win championships. While the Yanks could stand to improve their lineup, it's not like their pitching was stellar last year. It's a matter of improving the entire team, and while their offense was worse than their pitching, they've decided to improve the latter. It's still an improvement, and it's not a bad decision. They needed to get better, and they felt this way would have the greatest impact on the team as a whole.
But why so many pitchers, especially with Hughes finally ready for a full-time job? I believe it's the result of another Yankee issue from last season: durability.
The Yankees' pitching staff last year featured (at times) the likes of Darrell Rasner, Sidney Ponson, Dan Geise, and other scabbers. They suffered injuries to aces Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chaimberlain, and they don't want to be put in that situation again, not with fill-ins like those.
Should a pitcher get hurt, they'd prefer to rely on guys like Hughes and Ian Kennedy, and not have to reach deep into their farm system to pluck a player before he's ready. By filling their rotation with veterans, they're poised to insert the young guys when the needs arise, rather than immediately at the start of the year.
And it's not a bad idea to assume injuries for this staff. Wang and Chaimberlain are both coming off injuries, and Pettitte has seen his share of elbow trouble. Hughes has also managed to get hurt each of his two seasons in the majors. The new guys, Sabathia and Burnett, both threw a LOT of pitches last year, and Burnett has a very spotty history in the health department. Even if they do bring in Sheets, he's not exactly a modicum of health in his own right.
Lowe, however, has been very durable throughout his career, so despite his advanced age, he makes sense for the Yankees. By bringing in a lot of pitchers, the Yankees are setting themselves up so they don't have to rely on the Ponsons of the world this season.
So why chase Sabathia and Burnett in the first place, if you're concerned about health? Well, it's not just durability. A durable Hideki Irabu is worthless. It's about talent, and the Yankees are willing to risk injury for that. They've signed arguably the two best pitchers on the market, even though they anticipate that both might spend time on the DL. So they're using more money to sign insurance, in the form of a Lowe or Pettitte.
Peter Abraham has an interesting note about the Yankees' spending ways, specifically about the impression people have of GM Brian Cashman. After analyzing the Sabathia deal, Abraham talks about those who criticize Cashman for spending so much money on the pitchers, right after criticizing him for not acquiring Johan Santana last year. It's a valid point, but there is a simple answer. Critics wonder if Cashman is spending money WISELY.
See, I still believe Cashman did the right thing by not trading for Santana, and instead waiting for the next big fish to hit the free agent market. But Sabathia isn't the only top-flight free agent who'd be a good fit for this team.
Mark Teixeira, for example, would fill Jason Giambi's role quite admirably. When people feel Cashman should've addressed the lineup before the rotation, Tex becomes priority number one, and he instead chose a different direction. No one has a problem with bringing in a great player: the question is, did he bring in the RIGHT big player?
If this is the Yankees' strategy, then yes, he is. They obviously feel the rotation will be their best path to a title, so they got the best available. But is this the right strategy? I don't know. Pitching is always a great way to go, but there are so many good pitchers available this year. Sabathia is great, but they could spend a lot less money, still significantly improve the rotation, and then use the money they saved on Tex. They'd improve the rotation and the lineup at the same time.
Instead, the Yankees have booted Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi from the lineup, replacing them with Mike Cameron and Nick Swisher. Jorge Posada will hopefully return, so he replaces the Jose Molina/Pudge Rodriguez platoon, so that's a great internal improvement. But on the whole, this lineup isn't that much better than last year's, if at all.
But hey, don't count out Teixeira just yet. While many feel the pitching deals have put them out of the race, the savvy are noting that the Yanks did trim a LOT of payroll this year, and still have PLENTY to spend. While they may not want to spend all of it, they can definitely afford a Teixeira or a (gulp) Manny Ramirez. The lineup may indeed improve, and until those guys sign elsewhere, you can't rule them out.
Tex, by the way, is a MUCH better fit than Manny. I mean, Manny is an RBI machine, but he's old and can't field. We already have Hideki Matsui who can play that position. Tex would fill the void at first base, and he's much younger than Manny, so he must remain the top priority on offense.
Who knows who else is on his way? There are names abound, and the Yankees are never finished. For Yankees fans, the offseason is usually more exciting than the regular season, and this year will prove to be no exception.